It is currently 3:46am and I am sat in my hotel room in Hong Kong looking out at an amazing skylight, one still brightly lit even at this early hour
The skyline isn’t as lit as it was earlier this evening, when as dusk began to fall the glass and gray buildings transformed into a cornucopia of neon lights.
So why am I awake at this hour? Well the answer would be that my body has decided to take a break from sleeping and that this is an appropriate time to do so. I’ve been sleeping since 10pm local time, and it was some of the most welcome sleep ever. Since leaving home I barely slept on Friday in London, and my usual curse of being unable to sleep on planes turns out to still be in full force.
My journey to reach Hong Kong started from the My Place hotel in Earl’s Court. A conveniently placed hotel with polite staff. That is unfortunately as far as the pleasant things that I can say can go. A small cramped room was provided, which upon my return from the cricket became apparent that it was located on top of a nightclub. A fact strangely absent from the listing on Hotels.com; pertinent information that could swing a decision on accommodation.
The bathroom was a work of architectural genius. A toilet, sink and leaking, limescale and mildew stained shower jammed so tightly together that it was possible to operate all three whilst sat upon the great white throne. In fact should you wish to use the sink at all, this meant sitting down on the loo or standing in the shower and using it side on.
Other small details stood out, such as the wallpapered over fire alarm, or the windowed door, with lead not to a balcony, but to a roof in serious need of repair, which creaked ominously with even the gentled of test steps. From the sound made, I would be hesitant to but my rucksack on it, let alone bodyweight.
So from the hotel, it should have been a simple hop on the tube to Paddington, however once again the Underground conspired against me with the closure of the circle line, and the district line not running either. So after a single stop we were informed that the line was terminating and to exit the train. Our stop? Noting Hill Gate. A station served by only the circle and the district lines… Damn.
I stepped outside to catch the bus as directed, only to discover a queue the likes of which would be better suited to Easyjet which lead to an automatic raising of the hand and a cry of ‘Taxi’.
The rest of the journey to the airport was then as straightforward as usual. Check-in was quick and simple, and I had a very nice steak sandwich at ’10 Dining Street’. My only hiccup was a brief but potent anxiety attack, which left me momentarily soaked with sweat, and grateful for the nearby Boots where I could quickly by some travel wipes and deodorant, which after a quick stop in the restroom allowed me to appear a lot more socially presentable.
The flight to Doha was a surprisingly pleasant one. A Boeing 777 was the vehicle, and it was obviously quite new, and very comfortable. The seats wide enough to accommodate me, meaning to those normal sized people that they had plenty of room to spare. I know that I’ve lost a good few inches since travelling to America in 2009, but these seats felt far larger than British Airway’s Premium Economy service. Together with a large widescreen TV it was enough to make me forget of the tales of cattle class and sit back and relax.
One slight problem… that lovely 9.5 inch widescreen display wouldn’t work. Nor would it for any of the passengers surrounding me. 6.5 hours, zero entertainment available. Thankfully my Kindle came to the rescue.
Flying over such cities as Baghdad, we arrived in Doha.
The approach line with oil fields, with huge stacks with giant flames easily visible against the night sky. As we approached, all I could see was sand, sand, sand. On disembarking the plane, with was like being hit in the body with a hot wet towel, such was the heat and humidity. I was actually difficult to breath and was almost the same sensation as walking into the steam room at the gym. The inside of the bus was soaked with condensation as the hot air met metal, cooled by the air conditioning. All this at midnight.
I genuinely have no idea how a World Cup is going to be played in this country without endangering the players. Still, I guess they have 11 years to sort the problem.
The flight to Hong Kong from Doha was the opposite of the first flight. An Airbus A330 was the vehicle, and the seats were far smaller, and rammed in tightly. The service was delayed, with many passengers still boarding when we were supposed to have left.
One of these is a man, who I am going to Angry, Shout, Chinese man – or Mr. ASC for brevity. Mr. ASC was in a foul mood, he arrived clutching a magazine name Chinese Entrepreneur, and was dressed in a suit that looked like it had been slept in. Mr. ASC first shouted at the stewardess, pointing at his watch and at the front of the plane.
I had the distinct impression that this was a man who had missed his earlier flight, and had now been bumped down from Business Class to slum it with us cattle. After slamming his case into an overhead locker, my stomach turned as I realized that he was coming straight to me. Mr. ASC was to be my seatmate for the next 8 hours!
He sat, slammed is hand against the back of the seat in front, remonstrated with the stewardess again and finally, accepted his fate as an economy passenger.
My mood wasn’t the greatest either as a big metal box was bolted to the floor in front. This meant that I couldn’t stretch my legs out and could just fit my feet either side of it. For the first time in my life I wished I were a good 6 or 8 inches shorter.
Mr. ASC’s mood did not improve during the flight. He would shout at the stewardesses, or grab at them with they walked passed. Relief came when he decided to try and sleep, although that relief proved short lived.
Mr. ASC pitched himself diagonally in his seat, a tried to lay down across the seats. Fair enough, if the seat next to him was empty except it wasn’t. It was occupied by a large man who was growing impatient with his antics over the last 3 hours – me.
I had to physically throw his legs off me before he got the message that his feet were not welcome atop my legs. Throughout the flight, he tossed and turned, with various body parts draped across me throughout.
I think the stewardess felt a little sorry for me as her smile seemed more sympathetic than the usual business smile. Whenever Mr. ASC would grab at her, she would first ask me if I would like a drink before attending to him.
There were moments of comedy, such as the in flight meal. This was inspected in the manner of someone having a plate of catfood served to them in a restaurant. Actually it was some sort of chicken and mushroom crepe, which whilst not brilliant certainly filled a gap.
It was with 2 hours to go that I thought I may have to kill him.
He awoke, raised his head off of my shoulder were it has lain for the last 90 minutes (at this point I was just glad he’d stopped shouting.) and had a sneezing fit. It wasn’t the sneezing that made me want to kill him, it was that he didn’t cover his mouth at all, which is frankly disgusting.
Finally we arrived in Hong Kong. Or apparently we did, the cloud being so low and the city enveloped in mist that I could only make out silhouettes of mountains rather than buildings.
But I was finally here, six months after first planned and a lifetime of waiting; I was finally in Hong Kong.
I walked through the airport to immigration and was directed to a queue. This one seemed to move much slower than the others, despite its purpose being the same.
I then discovered the cause of the slowness. Mr. ASC was at the head of the queue, passport in hand shouting and gesticulating to an immigration officer. Annoying and rude right to the bitter end. Thankfully, I will never have to see him again
And so we arrive to the hotel. The Metropark Causeway Bay. So far it’s a very nice place. I was offered a free room upgrade from my standard room, to one with a view of the harbor, and it is at that view upon which I gaze now. Perhaps it is a little instant karma at work, a cosmic thank you for not slaying Mr. ASC.
The morning brings new adventure in a strange new world. I have an entire new city and land to explore and I shall now return to bed in preparation for it.